Up until the Middle Ages, all the “devices” that humans would invent were man-made and man-powered.  Humans had to rely 100% on their physical and cognitive abilities to improve their relationship with nature. Those devices were often inefficient and unproductive to face powerful nature. 

After the Middle Ages, humans have entered a new era totally different from the previous one: it’s an area of potent devices which have completely overcome the limitation associated with humans’ body.  Through the Renaissance, Industrial Revolution and all other great waves of invention, humans have discovered various sources of power and potential detached from humans’ physical/cognitive capacities. They performed far more effective and efficient than humans. With those external drivers, humans started to see exponential growth in every aspect of their activities; disasters tamed, diseases eradicated, production increased and civilization expanded.

In this project, we define “technology” as any means, emerged after the Middle Ages, that enabled humans to leverage external power/potential so as our abilities are not constrained by our own physical/cognitive limitations.

Roughly speaking, pre-Middle Ages are pre-technology era, and post-Middle Ages are the era of technology. Middle Ages are the turning point.  Up until the Middle Ages, humans were probably more like the animals in the wild: highly alert, observing the environment with obsessive attention and mobilizing all the abilities granted to their bodies.  But once humans entered the era of technology, they started to give up those extraordinary abilities one by one because they no longer needed them.

technology-and-humanConceptual change in humans’ physical/cognitive abilities over time

In pre-technology era, humans were ineffective towards the threats posed by nature. Nature would force humans to obey it. But when we entered the era of technology, the dynamics completely changed. Humans obtained enough power to alter nature and have it obey them. For the most part, we recognize what technology achieved as great accomplishments and progress. Thanks to technological advancement, humans obtained enormous amount of freedom and opportunities to flourish and pursue happiness.

While it is obvious that technology has been unleashing our potential in an amazing pace, we don’t ask this question much: what happened to our own ability? What about our physical capabilities and cognitive potential?

We can no longer navigate in the middle of thick nature without compasses or GPS, as the Inuit people would still do.  We can no longer read the sky with our own eyes to develop unbelievably accurate calendar as Mayans’. We can no longer build enormous architecture that would last more than 1,300 years using only woods and axes, like Japanese woodworkers did in the 7th century

You might say, “We don’t need to do those kinds of skills anymore, because technology would do them for you.” Sure. That’s the whole point of technology.  Less pain, more pleasure for us.  And since technology is so good at achieving it, we keep outsourcing more and more works outside our body so as we don’t have to do them by ourselves.

If every-accelerating trajectory towards less pain and more pleasure is the golden recipe for deep- rooted satisfaction and happiness, we don’t need this project.  We will simply let the technology guide us.  However, we all know that it’s not always the case. We know that “money can’t buy me love.” But why is that? Why can’t we buy – with excess money enabled by technological advancement — everything we need to feel satisfied and happy?

Remember the hypothesis for Zero = abundance:  satisfaction is a function of pain/pleasure and arousal. While technology is very good at controlling pain/pleasure level to pamper us, it hasn’t been paying much attention to arousal — both physical and cognitive — for us to feel achieved AND satisfied.  Money can’t buy me love because love is cognitive and cannot be enhanced by technology.

We will make a deep-dive into the relationship of Zero and technology to examine how our pain/pleasure dosage and arousal level intersects through modern technologies and how it’s affecting our sense of satisfaction and happiness. 

The first category is “Zero and architecture” because architecture is the central piece of our technology, and also because I would like to introduce you to “House Vision,” an exciting movement from Japan that attempts to shape our next-generation quality of life using “the act of living” as a lab open to, and accessible by all of us.